The Devil and Daniel Johnston

Critics Consensus

Whether you think this mentally ill cult musician is worthy of being called a "genius," this document of his life is crafted with sincere respect and is fascinating to watch.



Total Count: 111


Audience Score

User Ratings: 25,426
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Movie Info

The Devil and Daniel Johnston is a stunning portrait of a musical genius that nearly slipped away. It depicts a perfect example of brilliance and madness going hand in hand. Because Daniel Johnston is an artist suffering from manic depression with delusions of grandeur, wild fluctuations, numerous downward spirals, and periodic respites mark his life. The film artfully melds current footage, vintage performances, home movies, and dozens of recorded audiotapes from Johnston's life. Testimony from supportive friends and a deeply committed family adds a rich layer to Johnston's personal history, but Daniel Johnston's poetic songs tell their own passionate, haunting, and truly unforgettable story.


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Critic Reviews for The Devil and Daniel Johnston

All Critics (111) | Top Critics (36) | Fresh (99) | Rotten (12)

  • The Devil and Daniel Johnston is an unflinching yet loving look at the outsider musician's life. It's also the most revealing look at genius and mental illness since Terry Zwigoff's 1994 documentary Crumb.

    Aug 10, 2006 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • A heartbreaking, yet strangely uplifting and inspirational, exploration of the fine line between genius and madness, and how sometimes, one becomes impossible to discern from the other.

    Jun 9, 2006 | Rating: 3/4
  • I found the documentary surprisingly diverting as a case study.

    May 12, 2006 | Full Review…
  • Rock 'n' roll's capacity for recycling legend means the stories of Johnston's life, and the way in which they're told, could easily fall into cliché. Instead they are original, engrossing and sometimes heartbreaking.

    May 6, 2006 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

    Matt McNally
    Top Critic
  • The troubled singer-songwriter Daniel Johnston is the subject of an entertaining documentary.

    May 6, 2006 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • To share Feuerzeig's loving investigation is to share an insightful study of the destructive and creative capabilities of the mind.

    May 4, 2006 | Full Review…

    Dave Calhoun

    Time Out
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Devil and Daniel Johnston

  • Feb 22, 2013
    Sometimes genius is mistaken for crazy, and sometimes crazy is mistaken for genius. Falling dead into the latter camp, here is the story of a delusional soul who wished himself better than he was ( and still needed psych drugs ) and both the people who believed him along with those who knew the truth. The agonized look on the faces of this character's parents alone will haunt you for weeks.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Oct 03, 2012
    A fascinating, ticklish and heart-ful look at this tortured artist's soul. It's a great watch to those who have never heard of Daniel yet, and his tearful art and sad but colorful life.
    Adriel L Super Reviewer
  • Jul 10, 2012
    This fascinating stranger-than-fiction documentary is a beautiful statement about ambition, art, and insanity. It's not clear why Daniel Johnston himself was not interviewed in the making of the film when every major character in his life is, so instead of recent footage we mostly get low-production visual and audio quality (which admittedly mirrors his musical style perfectly). Still, it does justice to Daniel, his music, and his art, and is one of the more arresting character study documentaries I've seen.
    Sam B Super Reviewer
  • Dec 14, 2010
    I've been a Daniel Johnston fan for a little while now, but hadn't gotten the chance to see this film until now. Really glad I did. I had known his career had been handicapped by his manic depression and time in and out of mental institutions at what was also his creative peak, but had no idea about what he was actually doing to continually e dragged back to the sanitarium. Great stories and great tunes for sure.
    Ed Fucking H Super Reviewer

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